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City History

The City of Huntington Woods is located in Southeastern Oakland County and is bounded by 11 Mile to the north, Woodward Avenue to the east, the I-696 Service Drive to the south and Coolidge Highway to the west.  Within its borders, are the Detroit Zoo and Rackham Golf Course.

Our Early History*

In 1821, the Territorial Governor Lewis Cass of Oakland County, concluded a treaty with the indigenous people whereby they ceded the rights of the lands in southern Michigan territory that included the present day City of Huntington Woods.

J. Lockwood, a War of 1812 veteran, received the first land grant in Huntington Woods, signed by President James Monroe, in 1824. In 1832, Royal Oak Township was established, bounded by Eight Mile Road on the south, 14 Mile Road on the north, Greenfield Road and Dequindre on the west and east respectively.

Between 1830 and 1837 the land that now constitutes the City of Huntington Woods was ceded to a dozen landowners in parcels ranging from 40 to 320 acres. In January of 1834, Mr. Edward C. Mathews received a land grant in what is now the “The Hill” Historic District. By 1872, there were ten individual holdings several of which now featured farmhouses. In addition, a hotel had been built on the J. Lewless property just north of the present I-696 Service Drive on the west side of what is now Woodward Avenue, current day Royal Oak, primarily to service passengers on the stage coach line connecting Detroit and Pontiac.
 
A 1908 Atlas map shows ten houses in what is now the City of Huntington Woods, two of which were on a 320 acre area owned by prominent Detroit-area attorney and business leader Fred A. Baker.  The Baker Farm House, built in 1904 sits close to its original location at 10505 LaSalle Blvd.  The Modig House at 10425 LaSalle, built in the 1870's was moved from the present Rackham Golf Course site in 1920.   The back part of the house (kitchen) is the original cabin.  The remodeled house is built around it.  A third house dating to the late 1800s was moved to its current location at 13328 Borgman in 1929, turned back to front on the lot and remodeled.

By 1916, Fred Remole, an early resident, platted and recorded a part of his acreage as Banks Park. Other parts were later sub-divided into the Manor, Bronx, and Huntington Park and the unplotted fifty-acre tract called Hannan's West which were all part of Royal Oak Township until incorporated as the village of Huntington Woods in 1926, incorporating as a city in 1932.
 
By 1916, two land developments had been formed in the area essentially to the east of present day Scotia. The Baker Land Company offered lots for sale in the 320-acre area referred to today as the Bronx Subdivision. At approximately the same time, George Trowbridge Hendrie offered properties for sale on his 431 acre holding in what is now the Hill Historic District. Mr. Hendrie, a large landowner in Detroit including properties along East Jefferson Avenue, ultimately sold the majority of his
property to developers Charles W. Burton and I.C. Freud who planned to subdivide the land and sell the lots. Excepted were 100 acres that had been pledged by Mr. Hendrie to the Detroit Zoological Society and on which much of the present zoo now stands.

The Huntington Woods Subdivision
Upon returning from a trip of Huntingdon, England, Mr. I.C. Freud brought the idea of patterning a meandering street layout on the ridge area of Huntington Woods after this quaint town of Huntingdon, England, our city’s namesake. He and partner Charles Burton, president of the Huntington Woods Company, agreed and submitted the plans for the new Huntington
Woods Subdivision to its residents. The British influence extended to the design of many of the area’s houses and some of its original street with names such as York, Hereford, Huntington, Salem and Dundee.
 
Beginning in the early 1920s, the Huntington Woods Subdivision quickly became home to many of Detroit’s upper-level executives who were building elegant English-influenced homes in a style similar to two of Detroit’s established neighborhoods.  One early resident, Fred Hathaway, was a school superintendent and executive with the Michigan Sugar Company. He was the first to build a home in the new subdivision. In 1916, he enlisted the expertise of an architect from Huntingdon, England to build his home at the highest point on the city’s ridge.  The city was to become home to advertising executives, automobile designers, bankers, and architects along with other executives and business owners.
 
“Among the many subdivisions that have been marketed in Detroit during the past few months, few have deserved the characterization of ‘subdivision deluxe’. Among these is the famous Huntington Woods Subdivision,” wrote the Detroit Times, January 25, 1925.
 
The platting of the Huntington Woods Subdivision was completed by surveyor Sylvester N. Howard of Chicago, Illinois on July 12, 1916 and approved by the Oakland County Register’s Office on January 6, 1917. During this period, construction on the Fred and Harriet Hathaway home at 8736 Borgman was begun. Between 1924 and 1939, 65 more structures were erected.

Some Huntington Woods Firsts
In March, 1971, the Tribune headline ran, "Huntington Woods getting State's 1st One-Man Rubbish Truck."  The same feature story listed, in addition to the one-man rubbish truck, the paper recycling program.  A headline in March 1972, reads, "Huntington Woods Paper Pick-ups Save 1,700 trees."  Even then, the City of Huntington Woods was in the forefront of recycling! 

Rackham Golf Course
In 1924, Detroit attorney Horace H. Rackham and his wife Mary acquired approximately 150 acres of land from the Baker Land Company. It was located north of 10 Mile Road, in what is now the City of Huntington Woods. They gave 22 acres to the Detroit Zoological Society which was added to the 100 acres that had been pledged by Mr. Hendrie to the Detroit Zoological Society before selling the remainder of the land to Charles Burton and I.C. Freud.  The remaining land was used to develop the Rackham Golf Course. When opened, it was reportedly the first 18-hole public golf course constructed in the State of Michigan. Mr. and  Mrs. Rackham, both avid golfers and members of the Detroit Golf Club, built the course and donated it to the City of Detroit because, in Mr. Rackham’s words, “we should give those who can’t afford to belong to private clubs, the same opportunity to play and have tournaments.”

Since the early 1920s, Huntington Woods has continued to grow and change.  Houses continued to be built during the years  between the First and Second World Wars.  Like much of south Oakland County, Huntington Woods saw accelerated growth following the Second World War, as the demand for housing increased.
 
* Read more in the History of Huntington Woods: The City of Homes by C. Ray Ballard.